Teary-eyed and joyful after waiting 48 years, Tech. Sgt. Placido Salazar, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, was finally handed his well-earned Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals at a ceremony on April 27.
“Better now than posthumously,” Salazar, 75, jokingly told MySanAntonio.com.
In 1965, Salazar was hit by enemy fire in Vietnam, and not even noticing that he had been wounded, he bravely moved two injured officers, Col. William Forehand and Lt. Col. Jack Carr, to safety. He then manned the gate to an Air Force trailer that had been left unarmed. Col. Forehand said he recommended Salazar for the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his valiant efforts.
However, it took a very long time for the courageous Mexican-American to be recognized.
Salazar worked four jobs — as an administrative assistant in the military, a furniture salesman, a maintenance worker, and a conjunto band leader, in order to provide for his wife (who he married at 17), Maria, and their six children.
He was honorably discharged from the Air Force at Kelly Air Force Base in 1976, but Salazar continued working his multiple jobs. He even added another one — an announcer for the Hispanic radio station, KUKA, and later KEDA, where he stayed for 15 years and where he produced his first album, “Para Usted, Canta Placido Salazar.”
Salazar said he wrote more than 300 songs, some of which were used by La Mafia, Flaco Jimenez, and many other recording stars, in both the U.S. and Mexico. He also produced his own television show, “The Placido Salazar Show,” on QVC, which had a 15-year run.
Throughout these years, Salazar used crutches and had a titanium plate in his neck because of his fractured vertebrae. He also had lung tumors, for a time, which he believed to be associated with the Agent Orange herbicide the government used in Vietnam, but throughout the pain he had to endure, he never gave up hope that his bravery would be honored by the Air Force.
According to MySanAntonio.com, Salazar first tried asking Sen. Frank Tejeda’s office for help, where he said his paperwork was lost three times. It was finally after he reached out to the office of Congresswoman Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2000, that he was approved for the Bronze Star — a prestigious medal awarded to an individual for meritorious service in a combat zone.
In 2009, Salazar’s son contacted the Randolph Air Force Base to make sure his father was also approved for the Purple Heart in 2012 — an award given to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on, or after, April 5, 1917. Salazar suffered from a wound on his hand, as well as neurological damage from the spine injury from the explosion in Vietnam.
Although Salazar can now rest in peace with his medals, he is not yet resting.
The Edcouch, Texas native and Universal City resident is an active speaker for veterans’ rights and PTSD awareness.
According to The Monitor, Salazar said he is also producing and directing a documentary about veterans’ common struggle for justice titled “American GI Forum Heroes.”
“With God, instead of becoming bitter, I became better,” Salazar said to MySanAntonio.com.